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Latest on DVD Ripping: RealNetworks, Control4, Crestron, Kaleidescape

RealNetworks may be the first big-name brand to offer DVD ripping software, as Kaleidescape case is appealed; Escient, Crestron, Control4, Request take different approaches.


RealNetworks claims its RealDVD ripping software is legal. We’ll see.

RealNetworks is causing quite a stir with a new DVD ripping program called RealDVD.

Big deal? The software appears to be the first from a studio-friendly, name-brand provider, and the company claims it is entirely legal.

From the RealDVD FAQ:

Is it legal to save movies with RealDVD?
Yes, provided that you are the owner of the original DVD and you use your saved copy solely for your personal use.

I'm not sure where this stipulation comes from – certainly not the DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), which licenses the decryption software to RealNetworks for DVD playback.

Even so, RealNetworks says it is abiding by the DVD CCA's licensing mandates because the ripped DVDs maintain their copy-protection wrapper (and, by the way, everything else about the DVDs including the extras).

Kaleidescape Part II

Sounds a lot like Kaleidescape, which has been in and out of court with the DVD CCA on this very same matter.

Kaleidescape, developer of very-high-end media servers, prevailed in the last hearing, but the DVD CCA thinks the ruling didn't prove anything. Rather, it was merely a contractual technicality.

There is a vital DVD CCA document called the "CSS General Specifications." Apparently, that's the piece that stipulates a physical DVD must be present in a DVD player in order to play protected content.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) fights for your digital rights. Visit EFF and become a supporter for its important causes.

Kaleidescape, which signed that document after agreeing to the DVD CCA's "Technical Specifications" and paying a licensing fee, argued that the CSS General Specifications are not part of the original licensing agreement to which the company is bound.

The court agreed. The DVD CCA is appealing.

So I'm wondering: Did this technicality occur in the case of RealNetworks, too?

DVD Ripping Developments in the CE Channel

The subject of DVD ripping is heating up, as evident at CEDIA Expo 2008.

Escient, a pioneer in the CD-ripping and management category, finally released its Vision series of DVD management products.

Originally, Escient skirted the hairy DVD copyright issues by not allowing users to rip DVDs directly to its servers. Rather, DVDs would have to be ripped to a PC, and then copied to the Vision hard drive.

In the shipping version of the product, though, "Vision will in fact support direct import of encrypted DVDs maintaining all of the DVD’s original content and CSS encryption," says product manager Marty Wachter. "Vision also applies the extra step of further encrypting the copy on the Vision hard drive so that if in the unlikely event that someone were to hack it, they still can’t copy the DVD’s off the drive and play or distribute them."

Like Kaleidescape, Escient believes that "extra encryption" mechanisms will insulate the company from DRM lawsuits.

Other manufacturers think they're litigation-proof because, theoretically, they're not doing the decrypting.

Fuze Media, for example, originally ignored the issue of DVD ripping with its Media Center-based servers. "We felt there were adequate solutions for getting DVDs onto the system, so we left it alone for DRM purposes," says VP of marketing and sales Bob Silver.

But customers wanted a more seamless way of integrating DVD libraries into Fuze's media manager, so now Fuze offers a ripping solution that works in conjunction with AnyDVD software from SlySoft (sold separately).

This approach provides an easy solution for consumers, Silver maintains, while insulating Fuze from copyright-protection issues.

AnyDVD, he says, "resides in the background of the computer and decrypts any type of encrypted DVD that you put in the computer. Our software sees the DVD as an unencrypted DVD and imports it without any type of encryption."

He adds, "We're not unencrypting DVDs; AnyDVD is. We're clean."

Axonix and the now-defunct Xperinet have taken similar approaches with their movie servers. Neither has had licenses with the DVD CCA.

They rely on users to install their own DVD decryption software, which keeps them immune from CSS-related litigation, so they claim.

On the other hand, Fusion Research proudly touts its CSS license and the fact that users need not download their own decryption software to rip DVDs.

AMX, which also has a CSS license from the DVD CCA, works similarly to the Kaleidescape and Fusion servers. In the past, the company has skirted DRM discussions by claiming that its products are used primarily for commercial digital signage applications, where users develop their own content.

Crestron and Control4 are bypassing the issue altogether by not allowing users to rip DVDs directly to their servers.

DVD Ripping: The Whole Picture
Kaleidescape vs. DVD CCA: Judge Rules Against Movie Servers
Tentative ruling in landmark DVD-copying case says Kaleidescape knew its movie servers might be in violation of DVD CCA licensing agreement that prohibits copying of DVDs.
DVD Ripping: The Latest on the Legal Front
This compilation of articles on the legality of DVD ripping, and related fair-use cases, will be updated continuously.
Understanding the Kaleidescape, RealDVD Cases
What have the courts really decided on DVD copying, and what are the implications for the future? We debunk the myths about the the two lawsuits and clarify the current legal state of DVD ripping.
Is DVD 'Ripping' the Same as 'Archiving?'
Is the term "ripping" generally understood as the "illegal" form of copying a disk? Likewise, is "archiving" known as the bit-for-bit "legal" way of doing it?
Can You Be Sued for Helping Clients Rip DVDs?
EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann explains some of the legal issues involved in selling and installing products that enable users to copy DVDs.
Is Your DVD Server Legal? Manufacturers Say Yes!
Developers of movie-ripping products insist their products are legal. Here's how the manufacturers justify their solutions.
Copy Protection Group Sues Kaleidescape (2005)
Kaleidescape has a license from the DVD CCA to employ CSS decoding in its media servers, which it does. Now, DVD CCA is suing Kaleidescape for breach of contract.
Would Studios Rather We Buy DVD Ripping Products Offshore?
As studios work to quash legitimate products like RealDVD, offshore providers of DVD ripping software -- like AnyDVD developer SlySoft -- are reaping the rewards.
Industry Insider: DVD CCA Is an Innovation-Stifling Cartel (2005)
The DVD Copyright Control Association (DVD CCA) is a bunch of bullies. The organization manages to coerce all manufacturers of DVD players to sign away their rights to innovation.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Slideshow · Video · Media Servers · Events · CEDIA · Digital Rights · Legal · Legal · Media Server · Media Center · Digital Rights · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

22 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Paul  on  09/09  at  03:36 PM

As far as I’m aware, under the DMCA, it’s an offense to break the encryption on a DVD to be able to copy it in the first place. So even though all these companies re-wrap the ripped DVD in additional DRM, you still need to break the copy protection to get it onto the hard drive. It’s the breaking of this protection, not the act of copying it, that is illegal. As far as I understand…

Posted by Orlando Ayala  on  09/09  at  09:45 PM

Article 12 of the WCT provides in relevant part:
Contracting Parties shall provide adequate and effective
legal remedies against any person knowingly performing
any of the following acts knowing, or with respect to
civil remedies having reasonable grounds to know, that
it will induce, enable, facilitate or conceal an infringement
of any right covered by this Treaty or the Berne
(i) to remove or alter any electronic rights
management information without authority;
(ii) to distribute, import for distribution, broadcast
or communicate to the public, without authority,
works or copies of works knowing that electronic rights
management information has been removed or altered
without authority.

Posted by Paul  on  09/09  at  10:49 PM

No idea what the WCT is. But if you don’t have a license from the DVD CCA, then you could run afoul of the law.

Here’s a good explination of how 321 Studios argued their case against the DMCA:

It looks like if another case was brought to court, it could go either way. It looks like Real would be guilty of running afoul of the DMCA under that court’s interpretation (I’m not a lawyer, so it’s just my opinion).

Posted by Brad Gibbs  on  09/10  at  11:15 AM

What does this mean for integration firms?  What is the potential liability to us:
1.  for selling any product that archives DVDs?
2.  for installing DVD ripping software for clients so they can rip DVDs for use with Control4 or Crestron?
3.  for telling clients about DVD ripping software or showing them how to use it?
4.  for installing a C4 or Crestron system that aggregates ripped content?
5.  if the client only rips DVDs s/he owns?
6.  if the client rips DVDs s/he doesn’t own?
Can we be held liable for what would amount to being an accessory to breach of contract?  Any thoughts on the potential liability there?

Posted by Paul  on  09/10  at  11:23 AM

So long as you/your customer aren’t distributing the copies, I think you’ll be fine. I haven’t heard of a single prosecution against an individual

Posted by RobRuffo  on  09/10  at  04:01 PM

This SHOULD be illegal.

Most people use this for pure rent-and-burn.

Film studios are a business, operating in Western democracies, and have every right to operate without undue fear of theft.  Just because you thik something is too expensive doesn’t mean you have the right to steal it.  This is the hallmark of a civilized environment.

We must fight back piracy, as otherwise one day all ideas will be declared as having a value of $0, and income will only be possible in manual labor.

Posted by Paul  on  09/10  at  05:49 PM

Actually, I think most people want to rip their collections so they can watch them from a video server. Most people (that rip them) want to be able to watch their DVDs from a DVD library. The movie industry could have implemented a DVD or BD copying mechanism that would have allowed rips to be wrapped in DRM, but instead they don’t want you to do that. You can do it with music and TV, but not with DVDs or BD (even though managed copy is built into the BD spec).

If the movie indsutry didn’t want people to “steal” their content, then they could easily implement a solution that would give customers what they want, while protecting their interests.

It’s not about theft, it’s about making more money off customers that have purchased discs they already own.

All my opinion of course smile

Posted by Dave Fink  on  09/11  at  08:58 AM

Paul @6:49 (9/10) Exactly! 

Many “rent and burn” customers would rather skip that physical burning hassle.  I believe they would pay for a legitimate way to retain a persistent program or movie disc to use at their convenience, on hardware they own. 

A $2 - $3 per-title solution would grow movie sales business (impacting only the inefficient retail sales channel, itself inefficient and adding virtually no value to the end customer’s movie experience) and make piracy moot.

Posted by Joel DeGray  on  09/11  at  12:44 PM

Typicaly (and predominantly) clients purchasing media servers via the CEDIA channel are law abding citizens (who BTW fuel both industries)who simply want the convenience and value add of a server (sounds like fair use to me)- they don’t spend 10-100K to steal. Business needs to protect itself, but not above the rights of private citizens and it’s law abiding patrons. An archive does not break CSS, therefore no infringemnt exists. Furhter, the DMCA and DRM are both technological extortion, not only is it considered illegal to decrypt with out a liscence (which prevents fair use to be enjoyed by lawful owners), but reverse engineering, a process to discover how it works is also considered illegal!

The current approach to copyright infringement is like weeding out the guilty by locking up the innocent.

Posted by robruffo  on  09/11  at  12:49 PM

“Many “rent and burn” customers would rather skip that physical burning hassle.  I believe they would pay for a legitimate way to retain a persistent program or movie disc to use at their convenience, on hardware they own”

This is called a DVD, and it ia sold at a price of $10/$20/$30 not $3.  If collectors no longer bought DVDs (why woudl they of this service were available?) at $20, the movie industry would no longer be able to produce most movies. Few people realize that almost no theatrical releases are actually profitable, and that most movies are not, period.  It is a tough business.

Why woudl it be $3?  Why does anyone owe you this low price for a permaent copy?  Hollywood is not the government, nor a charity.  They don’t owe you anything.  How would you like it if someone told you that from now on, you’d only make of your income, because “that’s what they’d prefer as consumers of your time”, and that if you did not accept, they would simply steal your paycheck?

“Actually, I think most people want to rip their collections so they can watch them from a video server.”

This is statisticaly completely incorrect.  A huge percentage of videos on computers accross the land are illegal.  I believe that this is what you do, or maybe what your friends do, but many studies (conducted by all kinds of people, even anti-DRM lobby groups) proove that few people make legitemate use of computers or even these devices in regards to DVD copying.

As far as video stores offering not legitemate value, they do.  It’s called social.  You can meet new people at the video store (I know two seriosu couples who met there), you can talk to the clerck (who probably knows a lot about films, all teh ones here are film students), you can get out of your house.

Here’s another thing you can do there:  You can rent filsm legally.  You don’t have to buy them.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  09/11  at  12:50 PM

An archive does not break CSS, therefore no infringemnt exists.

Sadly, I’m not so sure about that. I don’t believe the courts have ruled on it definitively.

See Can you be sued for helping clients rip DVDs?

Posted by Joel DeGray  on  09/11  at  01:30 PM

I may have read over it and missed (not being cheeky), can you direct me to the specific section / paragraph you are referring to (pls)- JD

Posted by Dave Fink  on  09/11  at  02:02 PM

Rob, thanks for responding. you wrote:
“... a DVD, is sold at a price of $10/$20/$30 not $3.”  Precisely, and much of this DVD price goes to the retail channel and distributors that serve it, not the studio nor its artists.  DVD retailing adds very little, if any, value to the end user’s experience.  Yet it persists, due mainly to an inertia set in motion in 1997 before technology enabled far better ways of distribution.

“If collectors no longer bought DVDs (why woudl they if this service were available?) at $20, the movie industry would no longer be able to produce most movies.”  If ten times as many bought them at $3 via legit, persistent download-to-disc storage - or server storage, bypassing discs altogether - they would make great money.  (This has already been achieved on the music side. Video technology is playing catch up but is almost there.)

“Few people realize that almost no theatrical releases are actually profitable. . .  It is a tough business.” Yes, and what you describe predates home video - the studios have had tough times since the 50’s when TV disrupted things, and later, videotape (at first) disrupted them, prompting the Betamax case.  Old story, but sexy new technology this time around.

“Hollywood is not the government, nor a charity.” Yet entrenched, powerful players in Hollywood’s current distribution model fight customer-pleasing technology that ultimately will spur more movie content business than Hollywood ever dreamed.  Just like VHS did before DVD spurred more movie production and profits, even as they disrupted certain channels within the movie business.

Many people will always want to go to the movies, even when software is free (with commercials) or $3 for a clean copy to watch at home when they feel like it.  Maybe $5 in HD.  Others will choose to watch it at home in a no-hassle way.  Forcing them to drive to the store, or wait for snail-mail delivery, just to support inefficient, unsatisfactory retail delivery channels is a misuse of government and courts. 

Let the market decide.  If people prefer the minimal value of browsing WalMart shelves for movies, waiting in a ten-minute checkout line behind mesomorph moms, and slicing fingertips penetrating clamshell cases protected by 3 levels of security tape and stickers, retail movie sales may indeed survive! But if they want lots of film content without the noise, sell them a great home theater system and a way to watch what they want to watch with no hassle and a sense they are getting what they pay for, no less. 

Remember also that technology brings competition to movies - immediate thrills via a game, right now?  Or should we drive to Best buy to get a $20 video may want?  Hollywood might be shooting itself in the foot fighting downloads!

Posted by Patrick Ellis  on  09/11  at  03:38 PM


Speaking for myself and as a non-lawyer, I don’t believe that infringement requires circumvention nor the other way around.  I.E. you can infringe without circumvention and you can circumvent without infringement.  One does not necessarily imply the other. 

(opinions are mine, not my employer’s)

Posted by EJ Feulner  on  09/12  at  05:01 AM

If the DVDCCA or MPAA or other movie industry strong-arm dinosaurs ever actually start suing end users of these products, I wonder if they will include Spielberg, Bruckheimer, Cruise, Hanks, Afflack, Damon and a host of other hollywood Kaleidescape system owners?

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